My earliest projective aspiration was limited to the uninspired drag of a marker across a wall testing the boundary of my reach in a world of technological need and the realism of respectability. Lines scrawled out, either vertical or horizontal, are beautifully suggestive. I am introducing my shows at the Harvard Film Archive in this way because film, a motion picture camera, and the projector were never a part of my original image of myself. Nevertheless, in 1979 I did make a film while studying architecture. That experience was enough to convince me of how little love I had for single frame animation and the company of a motion picture camera perched on a copy stand. While in architecture school I did find joy in working-over a surface and later, after obtaining my professional credentials, began a project to trace a line equal to the earth’s circumference at the equator. My approach was systematic, placing paper on the floor and drawing lines from top to bottom paced by a metronome. By using a standardized sheet size and timing each session I could calculate the distance traveled. What interrupted me was not the drawing but the portfolio of useless paperwork. Each drawing from my flip book was another grotesque snapshot of a stillborn archived, but gratefully withheld from public display. Urged on by the clock work authority, I plotted out intersections transfixed between a subjective activity and an objective referent. I abandoned the project some months later with little headway. My paper conveyance was dry-docked indefinitely.
From the forsaken tidal pools of effort, creatures emerged from the wiffey iridescence of graphite on paper gasping for breath. These electro-mechanical beauties inspired me as workings in a portmanteau cinematograph to be refitted from historical materials and technological properties, but unburdened by previous media. The metronome mated with its correlate-cousin the xenon flash and a little photoelectric transduction love would spawn a draft animal to turn under another serial plain. In 1994, I naively re-domesticated Harold Edgerton’s high speed flash crossing it with Marcel Duchamp’s roto-optics to produce a hopped up phenakistiscopic mule. Stubborn but sturdy, it had no appetite for film and its heritage of historically mongrelized material made it the best means to embark, once again, towards an ideally functioning cinema. My centrifugal mule demonstrated how concept and practical realization can spin out the strengths of structural relations making them more pronounced. Hybridized and mute, the mule could not renounce metaphors or theories of consciousness that celebrate forces between living things and the conversion of matter into energy. It was a reagent in a field of correspondences between the mechanic medium and the human. But the mule, being sterile, was useless for breeding, was played out by plowing and moving heavy loads of artistic baggage and so, in the end, was euthanized.
After this tragedy I went to the movies and while loitering in the primordial gloom of the theater, I was visited by “influencing machines” rattling filmic chains, not to haunt me with them, but to serve as talismans. The anticipatory hush of the audience permitted me to overhear their promise of a world free and clear of the convulsions of overproduction, where mind is energy, raw material and final product. As the trailers began we were plunged into the occlusion of “permanency” contributed by cameras and film. Meanwhile, I was imagining a reign of tangible “hardware” opening fissures within perception. The material aspect of this medium would have formal coordinates determined by an absolute apparatus repeatedly re-defined by any subjectivity that engages with it, creating a perfect version of itself in the process of thinking. The “between” separating simultaneous objective execution and subjective motivation would serially gather sense images setting into motion the conational cinematic dynamo, while at the same time specifically determining it at each use. The connections between subjectively “working” and objective motivation prevent this medium from being reified retaining vitality by the perceptual activity of the audience. At that the credits came on and the movie started.
Introduction and notes written by Bruce McClure.
1 I have borrowed heavily and must thank Pavle Levi for his article “Cinema by Other Means,” in October 131, Winter 2010, pp. 51-68. Many of the ideas in his essay that have been incorporated in my personal account were included for fictional purposes and surely misrepresent what is presented in the essay. I strongly recommend reference to the original to clarify any confusion and suggest that any resemblance to the author’s ideas is accidental. The title refers to Mr. Levi’s discussion of Picabia’s written film “in three parts” called La Loi d’accomodation chez les borgnes (The Law of Accommodation among the One-Eyed) on page 64.
Total program running time 60 min.
A preconditioned movie screen and its contents by using two 35 mm projectors running independently and threaded with film loops patterned with one frame “translucent” base to five frames of emulsion and gels. The projection speed of each machine will be adjusted away from the convention of 24 fps. And phasing encouraged.
Four projector performance with each projector modified using variable transformers introduced in the lamp circuits and fitted with identical metal plates flipped or rotated 90 degrees and inserted in the film shoe assembly. All four machines are threaded with loops of patterned emulsion consisting of one frame translucent base to five frames of emulsion. Sound originates from the “windows” in the emulsion pattern that open onto the transducer of the optical sound system and is processed guitar effects pedals – metal distortion, two delays and graphic equalizer.
Total program running time 60 min.
A preconditioned movie screen and its contents using two twisted 3000 watt strobe lights.
Three projector performance. Each machine is threaded with loops of pattered emulsion consisting of one frame translucent base to five frames of emulsion. Two of the projectors are bi-packed using loops made from a documentary, “Birds of Northern Places.” These loops consist of negative prints made from a single 75 frame shot (3.1 seconds) and are nested inside the emulsion loops each pair threaded on a projector. Sound originates from the “windows” in the emulsion pattern that open onto the original sound track. The optical sound signals are processed by guitar effects pedals – metal distortion, two delays and graphic equalizer.